What to buy in Shanghai, China
Shop until you drop on China‘s premier shopping street Nanjing Road, or head for the Yuyuan Bazaar for Chinese crafts and jewelry not far from the Bund. Nanjing Road is a long street. The more famous part lies in the east near the Bund (Nanjing Road East), with a 1-km long pedestrian boulevard (Metro line 2 at Nanjing Road East station, formerly called Henan Road station) lined with busy shops. The wide boulevard is often packed with people on weekends and holidays. The shops are often targeted to domestic tourists, so the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Local people often look down on Nanjing Road and shop at Huaihai Road (another busy shopping boulevard with more upscale stores) instead.
For the high end boutiques, go to the west end of Nanjing Road West near Jing’an Temple. Several large shopping malls (Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Citic Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and others being built) house boutiques bearing the most famous names in fashion. No. 3 on the Bund is another high-end shopping complex featuring Giorgio Armani’s flagship store in China.
For those interested in boutique shopping, head to the French Concession Streets Xinle Lu, Changle Lu and Anfu Lu starting from east of Shaanxi Lu (nearest Metro station is South Shanxi Rd on line 1). This section of low rise building and tree-lined streets bustles with small boutiques of clothing and accessories, where young Shanghainese looking for the latest fashions shop. The overhauled, cozy alleyways of Tianzifang is also extremely popular and is a bit more elbow-to-elbow than Xintiandi.
Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore (Shanghai Book Traders) at 390 Fuzhou Rd (near People’s Square) offers a lot of books in English and other major languages, especially for learning Chinese. Just around the corner at 36 South Shanxi Rd you will also find a small but well-stocked second-hand foreign-language bookshop. If you’re searching for computer or business related books, head to the biggest store in Fuzhou Rd: Shanghai Book Town. You’ll find special editions targeted at the Chinese market. The only difference to the original version is the Chinese cover and the heavily reduced price. Fuzhou Road is also a good street to wander around and find stationery and Chinese calligraphy related shops.
Those interested in DVDs of movies and television shows have a wide variety of options. Aside from the people selling DVDs out of boxes on street corners you can also find a good selection of movies at many local DVD shops in most neighborhoods. Perhaps the best way to score a deal with a shop is to be a regular. If you provide them repeat business they are usually quite happy to give you discounts for your loyal patronage.
Antiques, jade and communist China memorabilia can be found in Dongtai Road Antiques Market, where you must bargain if you want to get a fair deal. Yuyuan Gardens is another good option for antiques as well as all manner of cheaply made and priced souvenirs (teapots, paintings, “silk” bags, etc.). There are two basement markets. You will have to hunt for them, but they are worth the effort. As with any market in China, don’t be afraid to bargain to get a fair price.
Xujiahui Metro station is the place to go if you’re after game consoles (the Wii is available here in relative abundance), computers, computer accessories and many other electronics, but the mobile phone selection is a bit lacking.
Bu Ye Cheng Communications Market, (Shanghai Railway Station, exit 4 from line 1 side, turn left and it’s the large gold building). 10:00-18:00. This is the one of the best-known open-style market for mobile phone in Shanghai. 1F/2F for new phones (two-way radios too), 3F for various collectibles. Any reputable vendor that sets up shop here will allow you to try before you buy- if they don’t then leave. Best way to get a good or unusual phone at low cost.
There is a giant electronics mart at the Baoshan Road line 3/4 station, which offers a huge range of miscellaneous electronics and mobile phones, however some are fake. Be sure to bargain hard. If you want to buy a mobile phone here, make sure you have a SIM card before you purchase, and test the SIM card in the phone by making a call, perhaps to the vendor, since some of the phones are non-functional but still turn on. It’s best to negotiate as low as possible first, and then try out your SIM card. Note, some of the phones are stolen..
Metro Line 2 at the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum station has vendors selling various wares. The most common name for the market is “A.P. New XinYang Fashion Market.” There are a number of variations, and the name really doesn’t even matter. The market shares the same underground area as the Metro station and there you can purchase all your knock-off products. The place is much more overrun by foreigners than Qipu Lu (below), and as such the prices for clothes are considerably higher. However, there is a wider selection here of other products: software, games, electronics, etc.
The horrendously crowded Qipu Lu clothing market is a mass of stalls jammed into a warehouse sized building which would take the casual stroller most of a day to look through. You’ll find the cheapest clothes in the city here, but even the trendiest styles are clearly Chinese. Bargain hard, in Chinese if you can and make friends with the shop owners. Many of them have secret stashes of knock-offs in hidden rooms behind the stall “walls.” Avoid this place on weekends at all costs. Some of the touts here can be very, very annoying. Be prepared for people following you relentlessly through malls, even up and down escalators – if this gets to a point where it’s uncomfortable, call the police. You can get the metro to Tiantong Road on line 10 – the stop is right outside. If you want to see some “old Shanghai” style buildings you can also get off at Qufu Road on line 8 and walk about 10-15 minutes.
Another option is the Pearl Plaza located on Yan’an Xi Lu and Hongmei Lu (Line 10, get off at Longxi Rd stop, go south on Hongmei Lu out of the station past Yan’an elevated road, on right) as well as the unassuming shopping complex located on the corner of Nanjing Xi Lu and Chongqing Lu. Haggling can be fun for those who are accustomed to it, but those sensitive to the pressure might want to steer clear. Not only can it be stressful to haggle, but just walking in to the buildings can bring a horde of people upon you trying to sell you bags, watches, DVDs and all assortments of goods.
But rather than pursuing knock-offs of Western brands, one of the more interesting things to do in Shanghai is to check out the small boutiques in the French Concession area. Some of these are run by individual designers of clothing, jewelry, etc and so the items on sale can truly be said to be unique. Visitors from overseas should expect the usual problem of finding larger sizes.
Shanghai South Bund Material Market: 399 Lujiabang Rd. 10:00-18:00. Three floors of tailors and their materials including silk, cashmere, merino wool. Have items measured, fitted and finished within two days or bring examples, samples or pictures. Bargain hard with the friendly tailors.
A smaller and less crowded tailor market can be found under the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (Metro Line 2).
Supermarkets and Convenience Stores
Major supermarket chains such as Carrefour, Auchan, Tesco and Walmart are scattered around the city and have cheap groceries and household products, and are generally crowded at weekends. The most centrally located ‘big chain’ supermarket is Carrefour, located in floors B1 and B2 of Cloud 9 shopping mall. Tesco has a store in Zhabai district close to the main railway station and there is a huge Lotus supermarket in Top Brands mall in Liujiazui. Whilst there are many stores around the city selling imported products at fairly high prices, Metro Cash’n’Carry, Puxi store located at intersection of Zhenbei Rd and Meichuan Rd is by far the cheapest place to buy imported goods. As it caters primarily to businesses, you will either need a Metro membership card or take a temporary guest pass from reception when entering the store (Puxi store offers no guest passes but most members are willing to lend their membership card at the check-out line).
Ubiquitous FamilyMart and Lawson 24-hour convenience stores can be found around the main central districts and inside major metro stations – these stores sell magazines, snacks, drinks and Japanese-style hot bento-boxes. Chinese chains such as Kedi, Quik, All Days and C-Store can be found in residential districts and are marginally cheaper and also stock cigarettes. A bit less common is 7-Eleven.